Quantum Leap

Being ready for anything and not worrying about things like pants, won this sailor a ride on Terry Hutchinson's TP52 /Quantum Racing/. "Starting Line" from our October 2009 issue

Katlyn Burns 368

As the winner of Quantum's "Live the Dream" essay contest, U.S. Army veteran Katlyn Burns went from the front lines of the war in Iraq to the lifelines of Terry Hutchinson's TP52 Quantum Racing. Sailing World caught up with the 24-year-old a few days after she returned from the Audi MedCup event in Portimao, Portugal.

What was your job on the boat?

During the downwind legs, they had me furling the staysail. It was a simple job, but it's something. Furling the staysail is the first thing you do when you're going into a jibe, and you don't want to let the teams around you know what you're planning to do until the last possible second. Because I was the lightest person on the boat, I could sit on the low side and be ready to furl the staysail without having to move across the boat.

Of all the things you learned from the Quantum guys, what will be the most helpful to your Thompson 30 team?

After spending some time on the water in the MedCup, I was just amazed by how much more seriously they take their practices. It's not just, "Let's go out and do a few tacks, put the spinnaker up, and call it a day." They practice everything, their starts, their pings, their upwind and downwind speed. They test out different sails. And then they analyze everything they just did. They take everything into account. I'm going to try to bring that mentality to my program.

In your daily blog, you mentioned that, in order to fit in with a TP52 crew, it's important to know plenty of jokes. What's the best joke you heard in Portugal?

Let's just say it involves a plunger.

-Michael Lovett

Katlyn's Winning Essay:

When I heard of this contest, my first thought was "How will I ever write my way onto a TP-52 in only 300 words?" Surely this contest will generate impressive entries, each one consisting of 300 words or less about each writer's sailing accomplishments and the competitive edge they have over others.

So, I'm not going to tell you about how awesome I am. I won't even discuss my sportboat experience. Instead, I'm going to share an amusing story unrelated to sailing, which will illustrate why I would easily fit in on the Quantum team in Portugal.

In 2006, I survived my first mortar attack. I had been in Iraq for two months, operating with my Blackhawk unit out of a large airbase. It was late into the night, and I had just gotten into bed after a long, trying mission. I was lying in my bunk, staring into the pitch black of my large tent, when I heard the incoming of the bombs.

At first I thought it was just jet noise, but I quickly realized that my compound was under attack. My instincts took me into a rolling mess towards the ground, and I was scrambling to get all my gear. The rounds hit just outside our tents, providing an intense bright light inside.

I was instantly charged up to fight. I had my flak; I angrily grabbed my weapon and every loaded magazine of ammo that I had. I was vehement with my desire to take action, so I met the rest of my platoon at the outside rally point.

So there I was, fully loaded with gear, weaponry, adrenaline … with no pants.

Sometimes, the inconsequential things just don't matter. Just sail fast.

--- Katlyn Burns; Arlington, Virginia